A rare try from record-breaking hooker Ross Ford was not enough for Scotland to overhaul Fiji in a thrilling one-off Test in Suva Saturday.
Fiji edged a 27-22 victory, despite Scotland scoring three tries to two, with five penalties for the hosts’ fly-half Ben Volavola proving decisive.
Ford played his 110th Test for Scotland, overtaking Chris Paterson as their most capped player, and scored only the fifth try of his 13-year international career.
But it was not enough as Scotland failed to build on their shock 24-19 win over Australia last week, letting themselves down with an incredible 30 missed tackles.
After struggling in the set piece against Italy last week, a much-improved Fiji applied early pressure through their line-out only to have two attacks fail through handling errors.
Scotland, meanwhile, attempted to play the flying Fijians at their own game, feeding quick ball to the backs and working it wide.
It was scoreless after 15 minutes when referee Pascal Gauzere lost patience with repeated fouls from Fiji and sin-binned lock Tevita Cavubati for a dangerous tackle.
The Scots laid seige to Fiji’s line but desperate defence kept them out and they lost a man of their own when Josh Strauss was yellow-carded for a shoulder charge.
Volavola broke the deadlock with a penalty for Fiji, who were again reduced to 14 men when prop Peni Ravai was sin-binned for collapsing a maul.
Scotland immediately launched another maul to take advantage of his absence and Ford, who had been at the heart of a brutal forward battle, grabbed the pushover try.
It sparked Fiji’s renowned attack to life, with flanker Peceli Yato scoring a superb try after forcing a turnover out wide with a perfectly timed tackle on Damien Horland.
The ball went through 14 pairs of hands as it moved to the other side of the field and back, via several spectacular offloads, before a diving Yato crashed over.
The hosts started the second half 11-7 up and maintained the pressure, coming close to the line and settling instead for a Volavola penalty.
Scotland levelled the scores at 14-14 when fullback Ruaridh Jackson pounced on a stray ball near the Fiji line then converted his own try.
A penalty apiece made it 17-17 before Leone Nakarawa burst through the centre of Scotland’s defence to set up the simplest of tries for Henry Seniloli.
Another penalty left Scotland trailing by 10 in the final 10 minutes but their maul again proved too much for Fiji as Fraser Brown scored their third try.
The Scots mounted one last attack but Fiji managed to shunt wing Tim Visser over the touchline to seal a dramatic win. – Agence France-Presse